Madan no Ou to Vanadis:Volume 04 Chapter 2 - MTL
|This text is a machine translation (MTL).
Be warned that the degree of translation error may be higher than usual.
This page was created before the updated (July 19, 2015) MTL guidelines and has not been reviewed.
Chapter 2 - Two Thousand and Twenty Thousand
More than half the province of Agnes was a barren wasteland lacking water. Most plants could not grow there, and the sand only made the atmosphere arid.
There were many cliffs and hills of sandstone which were reminiscent of collapsed towers. A desolate wind blew through the valleys between cliffs.
Despite that, a fortress was erected in the area since it was bordered by Zhcted and Muozinel. Small villages and towns, though few, were scattered in the vicinity of the castle out of fear of attack.
The Muozinel Army appeared in the area approximately ten days ago.
They rushed the border fortress and took it by storm. Though the three thousand Knights in the fortress offered some resistance, it was all in vain. Almost all were cut down and abandoned. Those able to escape the battle and leave the fortress numbered fewer than one hundred.
Afterward, the Muozinel Army attacked the villages around the castle, one after another.
The Muozinel Army's calm, systematic attack was frightening.
For example, they did not simply set a fire and leave it be.
They used their numbers to attack in waves. They demolished any fences or walls, forced their way inside, and captured the residents one after another. They plundered all money and goods.
Unless a person they had captured was an aristocrat or someone with political power, they took their belongings and kept them as slaves. All the elderly and children, who had no utility as a slave, were killed without mercy.
Finally, they deprived the villages of all food and destroyed the houses. The slaves were made to carry items out of the wreckage to be used as firewood before leaving the villages behind.
Any stone houses were used to store the corpses of the elderly, children, and any who resisted.
The number of villages they attacked numbered more than twenty. They were attacked, destroyed, and deprived of all things.
The flag of Muozinel is the color of the earth. On it is a sword and a golden helmet which draws a sharp angle. It is said the helmet and sword are symbols of Vahram, their God of War.
The flag was larger than those of the neighboring countries, and it was supported by a thick iron pole painted with gold leaf. Enemies could see it from afar, and when they were standing near to it, it meant they were being forced back.
Against the gray of winter, the Muozinel Army covered their flag with gravel to keep it from standing out.
The soldiers with brown skin wore leather armor on top of their thick clothes. Their curved swords were held at their waist, and they carried a shield and a spear more than twice their height in their hands.
The soldiers had black cloth wrapped around their head, and the majority had iron helmets on top of that. The force was primarily composed of infantry. The cavalry did not make even 20% of the entire army.
Behind the twenty thousand soldiers, more than one thousand people followed with their hands bound with rope.
They were only young men and women covered in scars and bruises, their clothes in tatters. Despite an improper appearance, it was not uncommon for the women's clothes to have been torn away.
They were seized by the Muozinel Army and forced into slavery. They shouldered small bundles. Despair was found in their faces, and their gait was weak.
“So that's the Muozinel Army...”
Tigre and a few soldiers from Zhcted had hidden themselves amongst the sandstone cliffs and were observing from a distance.
Though Tigre was the General and was in no position to move about thoughtlessly, he pressed Rurick and Gerard and joined the reconnaissance unit. He wore leather armor over hempen clothes. In his hand was the usual black bow, and his quiver was at his waist.
“Their skin color really is different.”
“A simple comment. That really is like you, Tigre-san.”
Teasing him while wearing similar garb was Aram. His round face and body and brown, bristly hair were reminiscent of a beaver. When Tigre was a prisoner of war, he had shared a friendly relation with this military scout from Zhcted.
“Can't be helped. It's my first time seeing anyone from Muozinel.”
“You didn't see any in Alsace? I've heard there are many Muozinel merchants.”
“... Even if they came, it would not be for trade.”
While he feigned ignorance, Tigre had not lost his seriousness. His dark eyes were turned behind the Muozinel Army – toward the slaves.
--- It would be pointless to push them back. If I can, I want to free those people.
“Will you aim from here? With your skill, would you be able to hit them?”
Though Aram encouraged him with a joke, Tigre shook his head.
“It's impossible. The wind is too strong here.”
The wind blowing down from the cliffs was far too strong and erratic. Even for Tigre, it was difficult to read the flow of wind of a land he had just stepped on to.
--- Should I use that power...?
He looked down to the black bow in his hand. It was a bow with a mysterious power which had allowed him to shoot high in the air, pierce through a thick castle gate, and push back Roland.
If he attacked directly, the soldiers around him would be wounded, and he would only harm a few dozen from the Muozinel Army at the most.
Tigre shook his head. There were too many unknowns with the bow. He also did not like the fact that it may have a relation with Tir na Fa, the Goddess who reigned over death, darkness, and the night. He could hardly find her favorable, since she had once taken Teita hostage.
Above all, he had always used the power of the bow when he was near Ellen. In his battle with Roland, he was also alongside the Vanadis Sophia Obertas. There was only one time where he used the power of the bow on its own, and that was in the shrine of the Goddess. He had no confidence he could handle it alone.
--- I almost went unconscious when I used it against Roland.
If the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was thrown into confusion, it was unlikely they could rout the enemy.
--- If I shoot their Commander here, it would only cause a temporary confusion at the most.
There was also the possibility they would turn their anger on the slaves. He wanted to avoid that.
“Let's turn back. Rurick should have begun preparations. Even if we can't do anything today, I'd like to begin attacking tomorrow.”
In accordance with Tigre's words, the Zhcted soldiers carefully walked away from the cliff so as not to make a sound. The last to reach the ground was Tigre. Since he had done so in a quick manner with his delicate frame, Aram smiled in admiration.
“Really, were your parents wild animals or something?”
“If that's the case, yours must have been beavers.”
Tigre returned a joke immediately. A small laugh was heard from the soldiers.
“You should see his parents at least once, Tigre-san. They've definitely transformed into beavers.”
“I didn't think anyone could take after their parents so much.”
Tigre and the others returned to their horses, having checked the Muozinel Army was not in the area, and chatted pleasantly while whispering.
Gripping the horse's bridle, Tigre motioned for them to not raise a sound.
--- I heard something... Footsteps?
They were currently on an animal trail in the mountains. There were many rocks strewn about, so the ground was not even, and with the pillars of stone and crevices formed between rocks, visibility was poor.
Tigre stroked the back of his horse's neck to calm it down and focused on his ears.
--- I'm not wrong, those are footsteps.
Scouts from the Muozinel Army may have been searching the surroundings. Tigre motioned to Aram and the others; the two walked around on foot, leaving the others behind.
Nocking an arrow to his bow, Tigre approached a cliff-side near the sound and hid himself quietly.
The person appeared to be a traveler who was being chased. Four people from the Muozinel Army were chasing after the traveler with their curved swords held high. They called out something in the language of Muozinel. Though Tigre did not understand the meaning, it was clear what they were talking about based on their facial expression.
The traveler tripped and was quickly surrounded by the soldiers.
Immediately afterward, one of the Muozinel troops was pierced through the head.
The arrow, was of course fired by Tigre.
The Muozinel soldiers were at a loss for words. Tigre had shot an arrow to stop them without giving any thought. They were sure to slaughter the person if he had left them alone. Still, he was anxious that the traveler may be injured by his arrows, so he took precaution of the surroundings as he shot.
The Muozinel soldiers fell to the ground and stopped moving. After checking the surroundings to ensure no other soldiers were present, the two descended from the cliff and walked to the traveler on the ground.
“Are you okay?”
Upon approach, Tigre noticed the traveler was a girl. She wore a thick mantle which stuck tightly to her breasts, but from the clifftop, he could not tell.
Though the girl stared at the corpses in a daze, her azure eyes were dyed with vigilance and her body went rigid when she noticed Tigre walking toward her. Tigre showed his hands to her and smiled to help her relax.
“I am not your enemy. I am Tigrevurmud Vorn from Brune.”
Hearing Tigre's words, the girl blinked several times. The wind blew and shifted her hood slightly. Her face seemed gaunt, and her golden hair was covered with dust, but she still remained beautiful. From what Tigre could see, she was his age, or perhaps a year younger.
However, Tigre tilted his neck, as he felt he had seen her beauty before.
--- I've seen her somewhere... Where was it? It feels pretty recent.
“Are you alone? Or is there someone else...”
The girl shook her head feebly.
“Can you stand?”
Tigre offered his hand. The girl tried to grab it, but staggered forward. Tigre quickly kneeled and supported her body.
The girl seemed to have fainted. Tigre brought his ear to her mouth to confirm she was breathing, then he touched her neck to monitor her pulse. She seemed to be feverish.
--- Her life doesn't seem to be in danger. Fatigue, maybe...
Tigre looked at the girl with a troubled face. Though he did not want to abandon her, he was worried about extra personnel before his battle with Muozinel.
“She's such a lovely girl. I'm sure she'd be even cuter if all that dust was removed.”
The men came down the cliff and spoke candidly having seen the girl's face. The others nodded in agreement.
“It seems she ran away. What will you do?”
“We don't have much choice but to take her back.”
Tigre lifted her in his arms as he gave an answer. She was lighter than he expected, even with her delicate body. With the help of the soldiers, she was tied to his back. When it was done, he looked at the four corpses lying on the ground.
“Check to see if they have anything important on them. Take their armor.”
Though he was reluctant to do so, he had no room to make any errors. Though Tigre also searched the soldiers' belongings, nothing was found.
The corpses were hidden amongst the rocks so they would not be easy to find; then Tigre and the others returned to the main unit.
“Looks like you found something pretty big.”
Those shocked words were the first thing Rurick said to Tigre.
Two thousand slaves followed the twenty thousand Muozinel troops as they passed through the wilderness of Agnes.
Their marching speed was slow. They were composed primarily of infantry, and since they were in enemy territory, they advanced while deliberately scouting the surroundings for small villages.
Still, they were not encountering any obstacles, so the march was extremely favorable.
“Really... There's nothing around here.”
Kashim, leader of the Muozinel troops, looked about on horseback while basking in the dry wind mixed with sand.
“Though our task is to move forward and thoroughly crush any town and village we find... At this rate, we may have nothing by the time we reach our destination.”
Their purpose was to take territory from Brune. Though Muozinel had aimed at the port towns which were rich and had vast lands with numerous crops from the southern seas, a golden opportunity had finally come to them.
Their underlying motive was to plunder the lands while Brune was struggling with their own confusion.
Kashim turned 30 this year. His skin was the same brown color peculiar to those of Muozinel. At a glance, he was sharp as a blade and was an impressive man. It was shown by not a helmet but a white cloth wrapped about his head, which was decorated with silver and jewels.
He was once a slave. Because his talent was recognized, he was freed. He achieved the position of General after many feats of valor on the battlefield.
--- I was once a slave, but now I am a General. I will continue to bring success to this expedition, but if I lose...
Kashim shook the dark thoughts away in a hurry. While he ambitiously aimed at a higher position, he was fearful of returning to slavery. It was a common occurrence.
Looking over his shoulder, he saw a group of Brune citizens tethered together with ropes, freezing in the winter wind. There were some who resisted, but they were captured, and now, most were obedient.
--- I do not wish to be like that again.
With those thoughts in his head, he looked up to the sky. Though there was time until sunset, it would become increasingly difficult to hide in the reddish-brown of the cliff-side as they approached the ultramarine of the wilderness ahead. The wind blew coldly against them.
--- It's about time to settle for the night.
While lost in thought, a report arrived from a unit which had advanced further ahead.
“General, the enemy has appeared. I believe it is the Brune Army.”
Kashim frowned after hearing the word enemy. While he was backed by an army of twenty thousand, he was not entirely sure of the situation before him.
“About one to two hundred. They are almost all cavalry. We can attack with catapults and archers, but they can defend with their shields. Still, they will have injuries...”
The soldier's report showed no signs of concern. It seems he was appealing, as if they were just troublesome flies moving about.
“With that number, we can shoot some arrows to drive them away and have them scatter.”
“That may be so... but they will return shortly after. We'll only be in the same situation.”
Kashim understood. Though he thought it would be easy to get rid of them, he was annoyed by the promptness of the report. He continued to dwell on it.
--- They don't seem like the remnants from the castle. Also, against our numbers, they would not have prepared only one or two hundred men. They're probably drawing us in.
Should they go chase, only more enemies awaited them.
“Take three thousand infantry and find every last one of them.”
“Isn't three thousand a bit exaggerated? We should be fine with five hundred.”
“Our role is to thoroughly crush all who get in our way. Go quickly, I will not say it twice.”
Kashim clicked his tongue toward the subordinate who looked at him curiously.
--- If there is a large force close by, our reconnaissance should have found some traces. Since they didn't, with a decoy of one or two hundred, they should number two thousand at most.
One thousand archers and two thousand spear bearers, three thousand troops in all, began to move.
Soon after, they entered a bottleneck surrounded by cliffs. The Brune soldiers hid amongst the crevasses in the cliff-side to keep from view of the three thousand Muozinel troops.
Once the Muozinel troops exited the valley, they entered an open area with sand surrounding them. Though enclosed in a blind alley, they had no time to spread out.
It was an amazing sight. They were surrounded by a black shadow with many flags waving above them.
“Five thousand... No, Six thousand.”
A soldier forced his voice down. No matter how he looked, they were outnumbered.
The Muozinel Army knew they had fallen into a trap. Though they understood, they had no time to react.
Against the western sky dyed vermillion, a battle cry was raised from all three sides. The roar of hooves and the tremors followed the large black shadow as it descended upon them. The two hundred troops the Muozinel Army had chased after had also turned around.
The Commander of the Muozinel Army loudly ordered a retreat, but it was not smoothly transmitted. The majority of his troops were caught in the valley and could not see what the soldiers at the vanguard witnessed.
The soldiers advancing and the soldiers retreating collided with one another. In the darkness of the surrounding valley, they only grew more confused. The Muozinel troops had stopped moving and were shot at with stones and arrows without mercy.
The stones thrown were about the size of a fist which broke many bones and caused an intense pain when hitting the face or hand. In addition, the unit Commanders who desperately ordered commands with hoarse voices were shot down one after another.
The Muozinel Army had lost the will to fight and sunk further into anarchy. They abandoned each other and trampled over others in order to escape.
Very little time had passed since the start of the advance to the retreat through the bottleneck.
In less than a half koku, more than one thousand soldiers were lost.
“Our first battle went well, somehow...”
While looking at the fallen Muozinel soldiers piled up in the bottleneck, Tigre muttered words full of fatigue.
As he turned around, he looked at the black shadow cast by the flags waving in the wind.
It was camouflage. He had used the same trick against Zaien back in Alsace. Many carts loaded with materials and tents were used to cast a large black shadow. They had been deliberately adjusted so the shadow could be seen from the Muozinel Army based on the time.
“They may come back. Finish the work quickly and pull out.”
Rurick gave orders to the soldiers as he continued removing the armor from the dead Muozinel troops. The stones and arrows were also collected.
After they finished cleaning up, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] disappeared on the other side of the hill under the cover of darkness.
Though he had told Massas he wanted to fight, Tigre was mindful enough not to fight an enemy numbering twenty thousand from the front.
The plan he devised this time was to reduce their power and dull their movements.
When he returned to the base away from the path where the Muozinel troops were, Tigre ordered the soldiers to erect their tents and rest. By the time they finished, the sun had completely sunk.
Rurick and Tigre entered the General's tent where Gerard was. The three sat at a table surrounded by many maps.
“For the time being, congratulations on your victory.”
“Though it really is only for now.”
Gerard immediately interrupted Rurick's words. Though Rurick clearly had a sullen expression, he maintained his prudence in deference to Tigre. After a quick nod, Tigre asked Gerard a question.
“How many were killed, and how many are injured?”
“We have no casualties this time, but we have twenty seven injured. Amongst them, there are three that cannot fight. The rest have mild injuries.”
Hearing Gerard's report, Rurick and Tigre heaved a sigh of relief.
“What of the arrows and stones?”
“We have retrieved approximately fifty-six arrows in total and eleven stones per cavalryman. We have distributed five to each of our infantrymen.”
Without looking at anything, Gerard answered without pause. He also described the distribution of food and fuel, as well as armor.
“Approximately 10% can be reused. Assuming our consumption remains as it is, we will last for another two campaigns. I doubt we will last in a large scale battle. Also, though Zhcted troops are experienced with the bow, there are few archers amongst those from Brune.”
With the young, brown-haired man's speed and accuracy in calculation, both Tigre and Rurick let out a moan.
Though Tigre and Rurick also had such an ability, Gerard was faster. Either way, he had taken charge of logistics, which was a welcome surprise to Tigre, since he could now focus on thinking of plans and commanding the soldiers.
--- We need to find a way to replenish our supplies.
Tigre was keenly aware of his situation. Back when he was in Territoire, Ellen was with him, so he did not have to worry much about funds, and it was easy to buy food and fuel from the towns and villages in the vicinity. He was also able to arrange for materials to repair armor and horseshoes.
It was different now, though. Even a single arrow could not be wasted. He had also given the soldiers stones to supplement their lack of arrows.
--- First, we'll need to find more stones. There will likely be some on the side of the road...
“What will we do next?”
Rurick asked as he folded his arms, but the answer was not returned immediately. Tigre stared hard at the map. As they traveled through Agnes, they had negotiated with every town and village for information which was further supplemented by reconnaissance.
He would not have been able to set a trap or would have been drawn into a larger battle if he did not have this information.
“Have they slowed down their advance?”
Gerard carefully shook his head in response to Tigre's question.
“Considering what we have heard from the scouts' reports, their speed has not fallen.”
He became anxious. Though they had a little damage, two hundred troops were able to hold off a large army. Next, Tigre asked Rurick what he thought of the enemy General.
“He is excellent.”
After giving a succinct answer, Rurick supplemented him with an explanation.
“He sent three thousand troops to deal with two hundred, so he has a rough idea of how many troops we really have. He came with the intent to crush us. Their marching speed not dropping is proof of their recovery, but---”
Rurick's words stopped as he tilted his head.
“He seems a bit too serious, or perhaps he is nervous. According to our scouts, he crushed small villages without overlooking a single one. His reaction was unusually prompt today as well.”
“That's right. I also felt that way.”
Tigre felt he may be able to exploit that trait.
If he could not stop their movements, it was necessary to change his goal. He would have to think about how to break the large force with his small army.
“If possible... I wish to perform two more campaigns before we leave Agnes.”
Today's battle only had the purpose of dulling their opponent's movements. They also applied mental pressure. Even at the risk of life, he wanted to launch another attack.
“Earl Vorn, what do you think is the largest difference between us and our enemies?”
Hearing Tigre mutter seriously, Gerard turned with a bitter expression of doubt toward Tigre. Though curious about his attitude, Tigre responded frankly.
“Though there are many differences... I believe you refer to the difference in our military power?”
“That is correct... What I wish to say is, while the enemy can lose many battles, we cannot. We cannot lose even a few dozen troops.”
Gerard's cold words made the atmosphere tense.
“It is said that all defeats are significant if it results in victory, but that is an expression for those who have the means. If we increase the number of battles, our [Possibility of Defeat] will increase.”
“All we need for victory is to win.”
Rurick spoke with a tone that clearly showed disappointment. Tigre wished to soften the tense atmosphere and spoke.
“Gerard. Do you know the fairytale of the rabbit and the bear? It is a story in which a small rabbit defeats a powerful bear using wisdom and agility.”
It was a story he had not yet told to Lim. Tigre continued talking, thinking that in the corner of his mind.
“I'll simplify the story. The rabbit fended off the Bear's attacks blow for blow, eventually tiring it out. Eventually, it could not move and was forced to give up.”
“I also know of the story.”
Gerard smiled at him as if he were an idiot and continued to speak.
“There are two endings to that. It is said the bear teased the rabbit repeatedly. The rabbit got carried away and was finally caught by a blow which took its life immediately – in other words, it only needed to be stopped once.”
Gerard spread his arms and made a sour face before continuing his words.
“Even if you bet on this plan to achieve victory, if you are unlucky, you lose. The moment you choose to fight, you open the possibility of defeat. In the first place, and I believe I said this a moment ago, we do not have the strength to fight. Even if we leave Agnes, we will only find uninhibited towns and villages. After all, we made them leave their homes.”
Rurick reacted more sensitively than Tigre to Gerard's words. After hitting his head a few times with the palm of his hand, he frowned at Gerard.
“You're quite glib. How about offering an opinion rather than a complaint?”
“Given our current state, that is my opinion, bald man of Zhcted.”
“... Refrain from excessive language, Gerard, otherwise you will become the bald man of Brune.”
Tigre scolded Gerard's manner of speaking as he vomited abusive language. Though he had ranted many times since they left Territoire, Tigre found it difficult to believe he was the son of the gentle Augre.
Though Gerard bowed and apologized, his attitude hardly matched his action.
--- I hope we don't have another problem appearing...
Gerard brought the soldiers of Brune together, but there were many troops from Alsace and Aude that Massas had brought. The troops under Augre's control was actually a mixture of people. Their equipment was also scattered.
Gerard had done a good job keeping them from colliding.
It seems he kept his sarcasm for Tigre and Rurick.
When Gerard looked up, they continued their conversation as if nothing had happened.
“The problem is not just our ability to fight. If they use the slaves as a shield, our army will fall apart immediately.”
The Brune soldiers would not be able to desert their people, and if the Zhcted soldiers attacked without hesitation, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] would fall apart.
“... I got it.”
While staring intensely at the map, Tigre returned his answer with a heavy tone.
Though he wanted to help them as quickly as he could, if the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] fought head on, they would be swallowed in an instant. Even if it was a heroic action, they would not be able to take any further action.
“By the way.”
Probably as a change of pace, Rurick changed the topic as if he had just recalled something.
“Lord Tigrevurmud. How is that child?”
Thinking of the girl he had saved from the Muozinel soldiers, Tigre shook his head.
“She's quite weak. Though there's nothing wrong with her life, she is currently sleeping. She wakes up, eats some soup, and then returns to sleep. It's happened a few times.”
Tigre entrusted her to others since he was busy and had no time to spare a thought.
Though he had seen her a few times when he was free, she was asleep and in no state to talk. He did not have the mindset to force her to talk, either.
“We've been thinking too much about the Muozinel Army. For now, let's take a rest.”
Amongst the Muozinel Army.
Kashim was furious seeing soldiers, covered in blood and dust, with their shoulders drooped. No matter how firmly he clenched his fists, however, he did not release his anger on others. He was barely able to restrain himself.
The number of enemies was five to six thousand. Though he doubted the report when he heard it, he could say nothing upon learning of the details. Though he did not know of the name of the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army], he almost precisely understood the camouflage they had used.
“They did it, the Brune Army...”
The weather and geographical features were skillfully used. Though more than one thousand troops had died, it did not account for even 10% of his men. There was still room to relax.
Soon after, Kashim received a report from a scouting unit that there were new traces of a camp being made the night before.
“The enemy should number a little less than two thousand. They seem to be changing base every day or two.”
Kashim showed his appreciation for the reconnaissance and handed a bag of gold coins as a reward.
At times like these, he was not stingy. This was one of the reasons he made it to his position as General from a slave.
While waiting for dawn, Kashim reorganized his army. Until then, the cavalry from the three thousand troops had been distributed to the right and left and advanced ahead of the main force. In the surroundings, there were irregular outcrops of stones, which would make it difficult to take advantage of a cavalryman's mobility.
He changed the distribution of troops so the infantry were placed to the right and left, telling them to be particularly wary of their flank.
The enemy's power did not even amount to two thousand troops. He told his troops not to be misled, since they would disguise themselves to appear to have a superiority in numbers.
--- We have an army ten times larger than they have. Even without tricks, we will win.
At that time, Kashim had not noticed he had already mostly fallen into the enemy's trap.
It was during the evening of the day when the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] made their surprise attack.
As the cliffs towering to the left and right of the pass disappeared, the road broadened. Behind the rocks, a group of cavalrymen approached under cover of darkness and hid diagonally behind the Muozinel Army. They numbered approximately five hundred.
Kashim calmly handed out orders. The Muozinel infantry lined themselves up along the side without showing a gap and shot their arrows toward the mountains behind them.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] blocked the arrows with shields and threw stones at the Muozinel troops in return. The horses ran about in place, causing their troops to collapse.
However, the fierce offensive did not continue for long. The group of cavalry which had advanced beforehand turned back. Rather than rushing the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army], they were aiming to cut off their retreat.
“They're probably trying to invite us into a narrow path like yesterday, but I won't fall for the same trick.”
Kashim would triumph over the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] by encircling them and crushing them. As he handed down that order, a new change occurred in the battlefield.
Close to one thousand shadows appeared from behind the rocks and attacked them. Seeing this, Kashim could not utter a single sound due to his astonishment.
The enemy's new troops were clad in the armor of the Muozinel Army. They wore thick leather armor, and their heads were wrapped with a black cloth. Since the sun was sinking, it was difficult to distinguish the color of their skin, and the decreasing visibility of the battlefield was only making it difficult to react quickly to this attack. The battlefield changed quickly.
In yesterday's fight, Tigre had his men strip the armor from the corpses. This time, he had them wear it to confuse the enemy.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] impersonated the Muozinel cavalry and stabbed the enemy relentlessly. So as not to attack their own side, they had decided on a keyword beforehand.
If one said bear, they would respond with rabbit.
“To use a child's fairy tale in this situation...”
“Clarity is important. It's easy to understand if it's easy to say.”
Rurick and Tigre exchanged such a conversation.
Using the childish keyword, the many people from the Muozinel Army fell off their steeds in the confusion. It was difficult for them to stand back up.
In addition, the cavalry were attacked first during their charge. After being encircled, the Muozinel Army nearly collapsed, being forced into a situation where they could not break through. The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] then quickly ran from the battlefield.
Kashim wanted to order his men to pursue the enemy, but he did not.
His infantry could not catch up, and sending the cavalry could lead to his troops attacking themselves. Also, at this time of year, it was nearly impossible to see the enemy as they retreated.
Kashim clenched his fists strong enough to start bleeding, and his eyes were bloodshot. An aide hesitantly called out to him in a low voice to give him a report.
“--- The slaves.”
The aide had not understood what he said. Kashim took a deep breath and expelled all his hatred.
“Tell the soldiers. Bring ten of the male and female slaves to me on their knees. I will buy them for gold. First come, first served.”
On this day, the Muozinel Army had lost nearly one thousand troops. With their second loss, nearly ten percent of their forces had been lost and they had gained nothing in battle.
Kashim had no other choice. Rather, it was something he could not help but choose.
The next morning, Kashim brought the slaves before the soldiers and had his soldiers that could speak the language of Brune repeat his words.
“To the honorless soldiers of Brune who sneak around beneath the rocks like worms! Show yourself. If you bastards have courage, then challenge us from the front in a dignified manner befitting a soldier! If you wish to continue your petty tricks and attack us from your hiding, this is how we will respond!”
As Kashim shouted, he beheaded the ten men, one after another. The women screamed, seeing the heads roll around and the bodies spouting blood.
“You have one koku to show yourself. The women will be next. We are prepared to do even more unless you cowards show yourselves!”
He was provoking the enemy with a threat against the slaves' lives.
Having experienced severe losses on two consecutive days, it was necessary to make use of the slaves. They were not to harbor hope. By executing them, he would be able to force them to remain obedient. Leaving the corpses of the slaves behind, the Muozinel Army began their march.
This day, the Muozinel advanced its main unit. Though three thousand strong, it was not that large if one looked at the force in its entirety.
Because the enemy was extremely small in number, they would likely not attack from the front. Yesterday they had attacked from the side, and today they had attacked from behind. Even if they attacked from the front, they would be met by three thousand soldiers.
Furthermore, they needed to protect the unit which carried food and fuel.
Depriving the enemy of food is normal in the course of war. Though they had not aimed for that today, it was possible they might soon in the future.
A group of cavalry advanced before them. When the sun reached its peak, Kashim received a report he could hardly believe.
“Five or six hundred...?”
Even if the Muozinel Army had lost 10% of its troops, they still had an overwhelming eighteen thousand troops. The number of enemies which stood against them was no more than six hundred.
“They should have at least one thousand, probably they're lurking somewhere...”
However, against so many troops, what could six hundred or one thousand troops do?
--- Maybe they don't have the power to escape.
Kashim persuaded himself in that way. There were signs of a camp having been set up, and, above all, in the past two days, the enemy would have been able to attack more intensely if they had more manpower.
“Probably the red haired man at the front.”
At the front of the cavalry which numbered close to six hundred, a young man with dull red hair rode a horse. He could not think a man who wore leather armor and carried a bow could be the General who led the army.
--- In the first place, no one in Brune would fight like this.
Brune Kingdom despised the bow. Even those of Muozinel knew this. Naturally, so did Kashim.
--- No doubt about it. There must be an ambush nearby.
The enemy before him, or the ambush, which would be the main force? Kashim gave this more thought.
--- Seeing how that red haired man looks, the ambush is likely the main force, but they might be thinking that. While my attention is on the hidden enemy, the ones before me will act.
He had seen through the enemy's plan, or so he thought. He was determined not to let this continue. He would advance his army toward the men before him. He was positive they were the main force.
“Cease these barbarous actions, brutes of Muozinel!”
The young, red haired man raised his voice. Although Kashim understood the Brune language, he would not stop his march.
“You have deprived the innocent of their lives. For that, you deserve ten thousand deaths. However, before I take your head, why is it you lawlessly set your dirty feet across our borders?”
“I'll answer you if you take the proper action.”
Kashim ridiculed him.
“Throw your arms away. Crawl on the ground and become slaves. I will be a generous master and tell you. I will even sell you to kind masters.”
Jeers were thrown from the soldiers of Muozinel hearing their Commander's words. They prepared arrows and nocked their bows. They would soon reach a distance where arrows would reach.
At that time, a battle cry was heard. Just as Kashim predicted, there was an ambush. He looked up with a smile but could not believe his eyes.
It was not the Red Horse of Brune but the Black Dragon of the Zhcted Kingdom which jumped into his view.
Kashim had heard that a small group had invited the Zhcted Army into their country.
However, he believed he would not encounter them. They had no reason to come. He did not believe they would shed their blood to protect Brune.
That was Kashim's conclusion.
Kashim was not the only one who could not move from surprise. All the soldiers of Muozinel stood speechless.
Zhcted lay to the north of Muozinel, so small skirmishes were not unusual. He was used to seeing the ZitnirtraBlack Dragon Flag, and, of course, he had no good memories relating to it.
With a cry, Rurick led the Zhcted soldiers while Tigre issued commands to the soldiers of Brune.
With that cry, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] attacked the Muozinel Army from two directions. With the troops in a daze, they allowed their enemy to approach them.
Their dazzling swords reflected the sunshine, but they were immediately stained in mud and blood. Rather than carrying a spear, they held swords and attacked either the head or the abdomen.
A rain of arrows pierced the troops' eyes. Those who fell to the ground were mercilessly crushed beneath the horses. The wilderness full of dirt was quickly covered in blood and corpses.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] cut deeply into the Muozinel troops, but with their small numbers, they could not break through the three thousand strong unit.
Kashim looked up and glanced at the bloodshed throughout the battlefield. Though it was regrettable that he was caught by surprise, he was finally able to think. If his troops endured here, the soldiers to the rear would catch up.
If they could surround the enemy, the Muozinel Army would be victorious.
A chill ran down Kashim's spine as he almost smiled in satisfaction. This feeling had saved him many times. It was his intuition, so to speak.
Kashim thought the enemy had closed in, but he denied it immediately.
Even if the enemy had closed the distance on him, they were still three hundred alsin (approximately three hundred meters) away.
Furthermore, that three hundred alsin was filled with Muozinel soldiers. No one boasted for the strength to pass that distance easily, nor would arrows reach that distance.
--- It will reach.
Kashim heard a voice in his ear. It was as if an evil spirit spoke to him.
At the same time, an arrow flew straight toward Kashim.
Usually, the death of the General is concealed as much as possible because it would mean defeat. A similar person would be immediately chosen as a substitute to deceive ally and enemy alike. This would buy time to allow for a withdrawal from battle.
However, that did not happen this time.
The sky was clear, the sun was overhead, and there were many nearby on the battlefield.
Furthermore, Kashim's head, which was wrapped in cloth, was hit. There was no possibility he survived.
Like a wave rippling across the surface of the water, a fear spread across the Muozinel soldiers.
The Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army], as if waiting for that reaction, let out a war cry.
The twenty thousand Muozinel troops, before their two thousand strong enemy, lost the will to fight.
They promptly recovered from their stupor. While the Commanders were scolding their men, they were killed by arrows, further lowering their morale.
The first to collapse were those in the rear who had not participated in battle but heard of the death of their General. One person, then two retreated, then others turned their backs away. Their arms were tossed aside and they ran down the highway.
The Muozinel Army collapsed like broken dolls.
Those fighting the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] began pulling back following the movements of those behind them. Those who continued to fight were cut down, those who turned away were pursued.
Tigre led the soldiers of Alsace toward the front and showed no mercy. He displayed his rage for the death of the ten men earlier that morning.
“Chase after them! Leave none alive!”
While shooting arrows, Tigre called out instructions, but he did not let emotion sway him.
Though the Muozinel Army had fallen, they were still made of eighteen thousand men. Once they regained their calm and obtained a new leader, Tigre and his men would be defeated in an instant.
While they were still lost, he had to teach them fear.
“... Your plan was beyond their expectations.”
While Tigre continued to shoot, Rurick drew near on his horse, bringing fresh arrows with him. Tigre nodded silently without breaking his severe countenance.
Kashim was not foolish at all, but he relaxed his guard. More accurately, he had not realized to the very end that he had let his guard down.
Over two battles, Tigre had impressed his inferiority of numbers to Kashim and threw them into confusion with disguises.
In response to that, Kashim took a formation good against a small amount of troops and weakened his flank and rear guards. That was Tigre's aim.
Still, had Tigre fought only with the sword, Kashim would have been able to defend himself with his wall of soldiers and would have remained alive. The same would apply if Tigre's arrows could not go beyond three hundred alsin.
For the people of Brune who were poor at archery, it was impossible to think someone could shoot accurately at three hundred alsin. Not even Kashim could predict that.
Seeing Tigre standing at the forefront of his troops brought pity rather than anger to Kashim's mind, and he had made a decision he might normally not have because of that. He had killed innocent people, and Tigre would not remain silent.
Tigre had used all of this to grip victory from a very dangerous situation. He had cut his distance from Kashim to approximately three hundred alsin and defeated him as quickly as possible. It was possible Tigre might have lost this battle if even a single breeze picked up.
“Rurick, may I leave the pursuit to you?
Tigre asked for confirmation once the battlefield gradually began moving south toward Muozinel. From his expression and voice, Rurick understood Tigre's feelings.
“Leave it to me.”
Tigre thanked the bald Zhcted Knight and sped away with Gerard and a few Alsace soldiers to where the slaves had been cut down.
To protect themselves from the Muozinel soldiers that ran away with a momentum comparable to an avalanche and the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] who chased after them, they balled up on the ground. The blood poured down on them, corpses were strewn on top, and their screams could be heard across the battlefield. They were frightened by the sound of horses.
Tigre dismounted and walked to them in compromise.
“It's fine now.”
With a subdued voice, a woman nearby called out for help. Tigre nodded and smiled gently.
Their suspicion turned to joy. Many other survivors called out as well, and there were others who shook their heads in disbelief. There were many who were unable to understand the situation and simply sat in blank surprise.
“... Why didn't you come earlier!?”
Suddenly, one of the men shouted in accusation.
Although the man was bound by rope and could not move, he glared at Tigre with intense feelings as he shed tears.
“If you had shown yourself this morning! If you had shown up at that time, he wouldn't have died...”
Tigre stood rooted to the spot.
The ones who moved were Gerard and the soldiers of Alsace.
The words Gerard wanted to say to the people they had helped could not be said.
Tigre reached out to restrain him. To protect them, soldiers from Alsace had fallen. Tigre looked at the man with a sad expression.
Hearing Tigre's words and seeing his attitude, the man inhaled deeply with surprise. Though many words were rampaging within him, they would not come out. He sat down with his head hung.
Tigre ordered for them to be untied and for clothes to be prepared for the women. Tigre also helped sever the ropes with his dagger.
As he unbound the people, a small girl spoke to Tigre fearfully. She gave the impression that she was a naïve girl about the same age as Tigre. While she hid her body with her hands and what remained of the torn clothing, she bowed deeply to Tigre.
“Thank you for your help... And for completing my father's revenge.”
Tigre dimly understood. One of the men who died earlier this morning was likely this girl's father.
“I'm sorry. That man just now, I don't think he was wrong. I understand his feelings, but... I wished to thank you.”
Tigre gave off a complex expression showing his mixed feelings upon hearing the girl's sincere words.
She had hid nothing. Her frank words expressed how she felt for being rescued, but it was clear she had swallowed words of criticism.
Though he did not know how to process his emotions, Tigre thanked her without showing any tears.
“You have my thanks as well.”
Those from the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] who participated in battle were well over one thousand. It was almost the entire army.
They were unable to endure their fatigue, and their bodies were covered in injuries. As soon as they returned from the place with several thousands of corpses and unimaginable amounts of blood, many collapsed and fell asleep. Without looking carefully, it was impossible to tell whether they were living or dead.
Since they had run to Agnes from Territoire, they did not have time to rest and were further troubled by the sandy hills and cliffs. They had fought the Muozinel Army for three consecutive days.
Though Tigre had allowed the soldiers to rest, it was as little as he could possibly allow them to.
They had gone through many battles and given chase. They brandished their arms and ran from one end of the battlefield to another. It was unavoidable that his men would drop their arms and collapse in this situation.
The Muozinel Army lost more than three thousand in this fight, bringing their death toll to above five thousand when including the battles from the previous two days. It was a quarter of their entire army that fell in the lands of Agnes.
On the other hand, about two hundred soldiers from the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] had lost their lives.
There were fifteen hundred still living. Amongst those, four-hundred sixty-two were injured, both serious and minor. It was a narrow victory, a miraculous result, given their current state.
Gerard was unable to cope with an unusual feeling; he was not sure how to report the results to Tigre. He decided to say the sacrifice was small since they stopped twenty thousand troops.
However, when hearing the report, Tigre's expression sunk, and he did not look like the victor. It was not simply out of fatigue.
There was no time for Tigre, Rurick, or Gerard to rest. What they needed to do was to gather the soldiers who could move and collect their spoils.
The Muozinel Army that retreated left their food and fuel. Because the money and goods they plundered remained as well, they were divided amongst the soldiers and the people.
Gerard had not played an active part on the battlefield, but he fully demonstrated his talents. While the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] secured the supplies, he was able to efficiently distribute the food and fuel so it would last until they arrived in Territoire.
“So we have no choice but to send them to Territoire?”
Hearing the report from the young man with brown hair, Tigre asked to which Gerard nodded.
“I believe you have heard from them as well, Earl Vorn. When their towns and villages were raided, their livelihoods were destroyed. Telling them to return in the coldness of winter is no different from telling them to build a house on their own.”
“Though I understand... Will Territoire be fine?”
There were many towns and villages who went to Territoire to escape from the fires of war. Though Tigre's worries were natural, the son of the Lord of Territoire simply shrugged his shoulders.
“For two thousand people, we have no other choice.”
Tigre was unable to object. If he accepted them into Alsace, it was easy to see his land collapsing immediately, and Aude, governed by Massas, was too far away.
“I understand. Please arrange that.”
As he said that, Rurick walked into his tent.
“... Lord Tigrevurmud, I would like to speak to you.”
Though he smiled brightly as usual, there was an awkwardness to it. Though tired, Tigre saw through it. After issuing instructions, he left the place with Rurick and Gerard.
“In our pursuit, we have taken some of the soldiers captive.”
This is what Tigre had ordered. He needed to know their purpose and the state of the Muozinel Kingdom. After getting rid of his false smile, Rurick's gloomy expression surprised Tigre and Gerard.
“They all said [We are the Advance Force who were to sweep through the land].”
Tigre's feet stopped. He was unable to move and the shadow in Rurick's face spread to Tigre and Gerard's in an instant.
They had racked their brain without sleep to fight against an army this size. They had sacrificed much, yet this was only their vanguard?
“To think that's all they were...”
Though his body began to stagger, Tigre managed to hold his ground. His heart beat violently from the unprecedented tension.
“Their main force?”
“According to them, thirty thousand. I will send the reconnaissance unit for confirmation.”
--- Thirty thousand...
He could not voice it. The number echoed within Tigre's body.
“... No, I doubt it would end with thirty thousand.”
Gerard shook his head and took a deep breath. Tigre nodded with a difficult expression. Though they had broken the enemy of twenty thousand, they did not exterminate them all.
“The soldiers who have retreated will likely add another ten thousand to the main unit.”
“... After twenty thousand, we have forty thousand? If they add the last ten thousand, it will take them some time to reorganize. They may not start today, but they might start tomorrow.”
Within several days, the Muozinel Army, a large force of forty thousand, would appear in Agnes.
Furthermore, his troops were exhausted. They would need complete rest today; it would be impossible for them to move at all. In addition, there were two thousand extra people. Even if they were to flee, their marching speed would decrease significantly. It was possible they would be caught before they left Agnes.
A heavy silence wrapped about the three. Gerard was the one to break it.
“What will you do, Earl Vorn?”
Tigre stared blankly at the young man with brown hair.
“What of the future? Will you flee, or will you ask for assistance?”
Tigre realized the meaning of Gerard's words. He was speaking frankly without hiding any anger.
“... Are you saying that seriously?”
“... No, it was a slip of the tongue. I apologize.”
Gerard bowed deeply. On the other hand, the one to move was not Tigre but Rurick. He hit the young man as he stood upright, forcing Gerard to stagger back a step or two.
Though Tigre looked at Rurick in surprise, he did not immediately criticize him and waited for his excuse. He was tired and it was clear he had held back. If Rurick were serious, Gerard would have done more than just stagger.
“... You, how much further do you intend to press Lord Tigrevurmud?”
With his fist clenched, Rurick glared at Gerard. Gerard's smile distorted as he was held up.
“I cannot say. For now, that will be all.”
Tigre was not particularly happy, knowing Gerard clearly admitted he was testing Tigre.
“Is that bad mouth of yours also purposeful?”
“No, that is who I am.”
Rurick looked as if he would fly into a rage but controlled himself. Tigre gave a deep sigh. In a situation with no room for error, he had to know what Gerard's intentions were.
“I believe your father placed your trust in me.”
“Father is father. I am me.”
Gerard responded impudently while rubbing his face.
“I was afraid that, in your desire to defend Alsace, you would abandon Territoire. If you think of Alsace first, it is not an impossible thought for you to think of. That is why I wish to know what kind of man you are.”
“In that case, shouldn't you be trying to gain our trust instead?”
Gerard shrugged after seeing Rurick's severe expression.
“You have already obtained father's trust. Even if I earn Earl Vorn's hatred with this, it will end should father cut ties with me later. Father would cut me away without hesitation. You will not abandon me.”
A troublesome man appeared once again. Tigre felt this way from the bottom of his heart.
“Earl Vorn. Though this is not the time to say this, you are what is reflected in the eyes of others.”
“Eyes of others?”
“Though a citizen of Brune, you insist on using the bow, and after becoming a prisoner of war to Zhcted, you sold your position as an aristocrat of a small province in the frontier to fight against the large political power, Duke Thenardier... For those unfamiliar with your personality, what would people think upon hearing this?”
“They would see me as the one who provoked a fight.”
Though he answered emotionally, Gerard laughed it away. Though Tigre was particularly interested in it, he could only nod. This sort of thing was likely unavoidable.
“Well, I understand what you are trying to say. I will take care.”
“Thank you for listening. If I were to add one more thing, the man of Zhcted with a barren wilderness on his head admires you too much. You should not use him as a reference.”
“... Lord Tigrevurmud. What will you do from now on?”
With his self control maximized, Rurick returned their conversation to its original topic. Tigre also pulled himself together and bowed in assent. Gerard as well.
“Apart from the soldiers, can the people move? I would like to make some distance.”
“They have been bound with rope and are too tired. For now, that is impossible.”
“... Then please examine the number of men and women. It may be cold, but we may have to make the men defend the women. Until we reach Territoire, have them take a weapon from one of the Muozinel corpses.”
Though a regrettable situation, the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] was in a position where he was forced to make such a cruel decision.
Furthermore, a force of two thousand was a powerful weapon. If the men were given spears and marched alongside, any enemy would be more hesitant to approach them.
After planning their actions, the three began working immediately.
That evening, the two thousand people and the Unstoppable Silver Flow[Silver Meteor Army] began marching. They trudged along with heavy steps, cliffs to their right and left. Though everyone understood the Muozinel Army was following after them, their bodies did not move properly. Their fatigue which had accumulated would not recover with just a little rest.
--- This is bad...
Tigre and Rurick looked at each other. Though slow, their marching speed was better than expected. They could not be forced to rush, though.
It happened around mid day; a report came from reconnaissance in regards to the position and movements of the Muozinel Army.
“Approximately three to four thousand Muozinel Cavalry are approaching.”
Tigre made a quick decision.
“Rurick, take command of the soldiers and gather all the remaining arrows.”
“Are you doing something crazy again?”
The Zhcted Knight looked at him with amazement and anxiety mixed in his face. Tigre shrugged his shoulders.
“We need to slow their movements somehow. We also have a headwind right now.”
Though he might slow the enemy's movements down, return fire would be sure to come.
“Please take people skilled in archery.”
It was a condition he conceded for Rurick's sake. Tigre thanked him. After gathering ten cavalry, he left, kicking up dust as he ran down the highway.
After a quarter koku, a Vahram – the God of War worshiped by Muozinel – flag came into view. Tigre stopped his horse, nocked an arrow, and quickly shot it.
The arrow drew a large arc in the sky and cut through the wind. It hit its mark, causing the soldier at the front to fall off his horse. The Zhcted soldiers followed Tigre's lead and shot arrows, felling some of the enemies.
Though the Muozinel Army stopped moving due to the sudden attack, they quickly regained calm and charged forward, the sound of hooves rumbling across the earth. Though they also shot arrows, due to the distance and the wind conditions not being in their favor, they fell short of Tigre.
Tigre and the others ran with their horses, maintaining a set distance. No matter how many they shot down, the enemy continued to charge forward. A cold sweat spread across Tigre's temple.
--- If this keeps up, we'll meet Rurick and the main force...
It was at that time when the sound of horses running increased. Though Tigre thought it could have been reinforcements, there was no dust cloud coming from behind the Muozinel soldiers.
The Muozinel Army also noticed it and stopped their horses. Tigre noticed the sound had come from above them. Tigre looked up for the first time.
--- ZirnitraBlack Dragon Flag...?
Waving in the wind was the unmistakable color of the Zhcted Kingdom. Below it was a blue spear drawn diagonally on a white background. Tigre recognized it immediately.
A group of cavalry ran down the steep slope skillfully and entered the space between Tigre and Muozinel.
At the lead was a spear wielding girl of 15 or 16 years. She brought her horse before the stunned Tigre.
She was small in stature and had blue hair to her shoulders. She seemed flushed since she was running on horseback. She had adorable features and pupils like ice from which the cold shined through. Her clothes made of blue silk matched the color of her hair. In her hand was a spear with a short handle.
Seeing Tigre's face, she smiled in a somewhat ill-natured manner.
“It has been a while, Tigrevurmud Vorn.”
It was the Vanadis who governed Olmutz.
She was the Michelia[Snow Princess of the Frozen Wave], Ludmira Lurie.
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